11 Ways to Preach the Gospel from the Book of Daniel (Part I: Daniel 1-6)

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Every book of the Bible invites us to use different stories, language, themes, and metaphors to describe the good news of what God has done in Jesus. If you’re a youth pastor or leading a group through the Book of Daniel, here are six ways to talk about Jesus in the narrative section, chapters 1-6. 

Please see also Six Reasons Teenagers Need the Book of Daniel

GOD IS IN CONTROL

The power of Babylon came from its ability to wield death. Nebuchadnezzar used exile to kill Daniel’s nation and executions to make his captives comply. But despite how it appeared, God was always in control

Just as Daniel rose in power in Babylon, Jesus rose in power from his grave (Eph. 1:19-21). Babylon could not overturn God’s plan to preserve an exiled people. Neither could the power of Rome, nor the exile of the grave, overturn God’s plan to raise Jesus from the dead and seat him in power (Acts 2:23-24). Unlike the empires of the world, God’s power rests in his ability to undo death.

There are many reasons to be afraid in this world. Nations are collapsing. Viruses are killing. Babylon has gone digital. The algorithm that recommended this article is evidence that we’re caught in some new pagan metaverse. But the message of Daniel and of Jesus is the same. Despite how it looks, God is in control.

A METEORIC KINGDOM

Nebuchadnezzar has a dream of a giant statue being smashed by a meteor falling from the sky. Daniel tells the king the dream is a vision of four successive empires that will one day be crushed by the Kingdom of the one true God. 

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream ultimately came true when Jesus left the heavens, came to earth, and established a Kingdom not of this world (John 18:36). Jesus is the meteor of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision that comes to destroy the empires of the world. The most powerful kingdom is no longer the next in a long line of proud successive empires, but the Kingdom of Jesus. The moment Jesus humbly gave up his power on the cross, the meteor smashed the proud empires of the world.

THE IMAGE OF GOD

In Daniel 3 Nebuchadnezzar demands all his politicians and officials bow to his statue or be burned in a furnace. Nebuchadnezzar’s statue is called an “image” ten different times (Dan. 3:1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 15, 18). Ancient kings marked their territory with images, placing statues of themselves in conquered towns. Every time you saw the image, you knew who controlled the land. Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image was the largest ever built, supposedly  the last word on who ruled the world. 

When three men refuse to bow and are thrown to the king’s furnace, Nebuchadnezzar sees a counter-image of someone like the “son of God” in the furnace. It’s an image more powerful than Nebuchadnezzar’s statue or the flames. God’s image marked his territory right in the heart of Babylonian power, pride, and fury.  

In the letter to the Hebrews, we’re told that Jesus is the image of God, who protects from the fires of death. Jesus “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation [the Greek word is “image”] of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb. 1:3). The true image of God is Jesus. Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, he does not demand we bow under threat of fiery furnaces. Instead, he enters the fiery furnace himself to rescue all who trust him.

THE WRITING ON THE WALL

Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, Belshazzar’s first act in power is to plunder the royal treasury of artifacts from God’s temple (Dan. 5:2). He passes out the sacred goblets and gets drunk worshiping his gods (Dan. 5:3-4). God responds by writing unintelligible words, which Daniel interprets: Belshazzar’s days are numbered, he has been weighed and found wanting, and his kingdom will be divided between two nations: Media and Persia. This is good news that means no arrogant power will ever last. Everyone who uses their power to mock God’s Kingdom will be destroyed. 

Jesus is coming to number, divide, and weigh the proud rulers of the world (Matt. 25:32, Rev. 19:11). Jesus has been patient with human pride for generations (2 Peter 3:9). But the writing’s on the wall. Jesus is coming to find the arrogant wanting, to number the proud among the conquered, and to divide their kingdoms among the humble (Matt. 5:5). Those who refuse to humble themselves before God will fall. And those who reject the truth that Jesus’ humility leads to his resurrection will be dethroned. 

THE TRIAL BY LIONS

Belshazzar is deposed by King Darius. Immediately, a group of jealous politicians come to King Darius with a new piece of legislation requiring all in Babylon to pray in Darius’ name alone, punishable by “trial by lions” (Dan. 6:6-7). It was a way to curry the new king’s favor. If anyone is suspected of disloyalty, simply throw him in the lions’ den. If the lions don’t eat the suspect, he’s innocent. But if they do, he is “obviously” guilty. Flattered, Darius agrees without noticing thatDaniel is not among his legislators (Dan. 6:8-9). Instead, we find Daniel, praying towards Jerusalem. 

The jealous officials tell the king that Daniel must be thrown to the lions. But Daniel is innocent, so God shuts the lions’ mouths. Daniel is lifted from his tomb, and the king throws the governors to the lions, who find them guilty (Dan. 6:22-24). 

Just like the jealous conspirators in Daniel, the jealous Pharisees want Jesus torn to shreds at the hands of the Romans (Matt. 26:3). The Pharisees set up a false trial that leads to a rigged verdict of “guilty” (Matt. 26:59). But just as the lions could not swallow Daniel, death cannot consume Jesus. The trial by death backfires, and Jesus rises from the tomb because it is not possible for him to be judged by the grave (Acts 2:24).

THE PRIEST AND TEMPLE YET TO COME

In the story of the lion’s den, Daniel prayed “towards Jerusalem” (Dan. 6:10). Jerusalem was where God’s temple stood and where priests offered sacrifices so that the guilty could be declared innocent (Lev. 16:30). But when Daniel was in Babylon, Solomon’s Temple had been destroyed. There were no priests and no sacrifices. Daniel was praying toward a future city, and trusting in a future temple, priest, and sacrifice that would prove him innocent and vindicate him before his enemies. 

Daniel was praying to Jesus, even if he didn’t know his name. In Jesus’ name both Daniel and we find rescue from our accusers, are declared innocent of sin, and see our oppressors come to justice (1 Tim. 2:5). In Jesus’ name the Lord will not find us guilty. In Jesus’ name the grave will never consume us. 

There are as many ways to worship Jesus in Daniel as there are facets of a diamond. I hope this article begins a long journey of seeing and enjoying all the ways the Bible reveals the good news of Jesus.  Check back on the blog for part two of this article, which covers preaching through Daniel 7-12.

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